Loans out (lending objects) (Spectrum 5.0 consultation draft)

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Use this procedure to assess requests for you to lend objects for an exhibition or any other reason. Lending can be a good way of making your collections more accessible, raising the profile of your own museum, and developing your networks.

This is a Spectrum primary procedure. UK museums must meet the standard set out below to fulfil the requirements of the Museum Accreditation Scheme.

The Spectrum standard

You must have a policy on lending objects. This could either be a standalone document or part of a wider collections management policy. Either way, you should include answers to these questions:

  • Why might you lend objects?
  • Who can potentially borrow from you?
  • Why might you refuse loan requests?
  • Are there objects you would not normally consider lending?
  • What is the minimum and maximum length of a loan?
  • How much notice do you normally need to consider loan requests?
  • Who can authorise the loan of your objects?
  • What are your terms and conditions for lending?

You must also have a written procedure that explains the steps to follow when objects are being considered for loan, and when they are loaned. Spectrum’s suggested procedure is a useful starting point, and is available as a workflow diagram or as a text file you can edit. However you do it, your own procedure must meet the following minimum requirements:

Minimum requirement Why this is important See (cross-references to be added in final version)
All loan requests are assessed according to your policy. You treat all loan requests in a fair and transparent way.
The reason for each loan is clearly stated. Borrowers do not use your objects in a way that goes beyond the agreed purpose.
All loans are for fixed periods. It is clear to borrowers that loans are not ‘permanent’.

The loan procedure is not used unethically as a backdoor way to dispose of objects.

You have a written agreement signed by you and the borrower before any loan begins, with clear reference to the care standards they agree to meet and other terms and conditions. You have a formal record of what was agreed in case any problems arise during the loan.
Borrowers have appropriate insurance or indemnity for your objects while in their care (including in transit). The costs of any damage or loss during a loan out are covered.

You do not leave objects without cover while they are being transported.

You keep a written record of all loans. You can consult the relevant loan file in case a problem arises after the object is returned to you.

Use by borrowers forms part of the recorded history of objects.


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  1. I would suggest that a loans policy also addresses the question of whether or not an institution would send couriers to accompany loans and, if so, who would make a suitable courier and what training may be required.

    I would also suggest that alongside written records and a loan agreement, the minimum standard should include a condition report with photographic records completed prior to, and return from, loan in case of any problems arising during or following the loan period.

  2. To link with the incoming procedure should the following be added: You have up-to-date information about the physical well-being of the object prior to it going out on loan & upon its return.
    A unique number should be allocated to each loan-out.

  3. General Comments Applicable to all procedures: The inclusion of references to policies is beneficial but many of the questions that should be covered are more procedural than policy and would sit better within an organisation’s individual procedures than at the higher policy level. It isn’t clear how these questions sit with PAS 197 and Accreditation and could be difficult to answer in a general collections management policy without this running into many pages. The use of simpler terms and clearer language again is to be welcomed but there is a concern about the use of ‘you’ throughout this document. Without defining this term it can easily be read as an individual and therefore places the emphasis on a single person within an organisation to take responsibility for all these activities. This is a change from Spectrum 4.0 where the emphasis was at an organisational level and allowed the document to be used for advocacy to Trustees and Senior Management for the importance of these activities and how they affect those at an organisational level. Without clarity that the responsibility sits at an organisational level through the definition of ‘you’ this has the potential to de-value the nature of these activities and reduce support from senior management.
    It would also be beneficial to include references to other sources of guidance and legislation in the supporting notes where applicable and available although this will vary from country to country.

  4. Note 1: Loan agreements
    We welcome the reference to scientific research loans here as these are relatively common in relation to archaeology collections. This guidance is particularly helpful to non-museum archaeologists managing archaeology collections.

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Date created: 2017

Author: Collections Trust

Publisher: Collections Trust